How to Notify Social Security of the Death of a Beneficiary

By Lee Hall, J.D.

How to Notify Social Security of the Death of a Beneficiary

By Lee Hall, J.D.

After someone retires or becomes unable to work, they can typically receive monthly Social Security payments. The amount of the monthly payment depends on how long they worked and how much they earned during those working years. The payments come to the address of the beneficiary until the Social Security Administration learns of the person's death.

Old man sitting at tablet

Communicating the death to the appropriate parties.


Funeral homes report deaths to the Social Security Administration if the next of kin supplies the funeral director with the deceased's Social Security number. The executor, administrator, or next of kin can call the Social Security Administration's local office or the national toll-free number to reach the correct representative.

Do not cash or keep any payments sent after the beneficiary's death. If the payments came by mail, expect a notice from the Social Security Administration requesting reimbursement. Return any payments from the month of the recipient's death onward. Note: the Social Security Administration pays out benefits a month behind—for example, it issues June's payment in early July.

A Social Security recipient needs to have lived throughout the full month to qualify for the corresponding monthly payment. If the recipient received Social Security payments by direct deposit into a personal bank account, the Social Security Administration will, upon notification of the death, reverse the deposit. Once the Social Security Administration has notice, hold the bank account open for at least 45 days.

Receiving Social Security death and survivor benefits.

The Social Security administration pays a lump-sum benefit to the family of the deceased person. Payment goes to the surviving spouse living in the person's household (or a spouse separated but receiving Social Security payments on the deceased person's record). Should no qualifying spouse exist, payment can go to a child who qualifies for benefits on the person's record. Call the local Social Security office to learn who qualifies.

The surviving spouse qualifies for the survivor benefit if married to the deceased for nine months or more, or if caring for a child (under age 16) of the deceased. The benefit comes with an age requirement. A survivor may collect as early as age 60 but should wait until full survivor retirement age to collect 100 percent of the allowed payments. Disabled survivors may collect from age 50.

Ex-spouses, formerly married to the deceased 10 or more years (even if they have re-married), qualify for the survivor benefit. Check the Widows, Widowers & Other Survivors page of the Social Security website to learn more details.

Notification to the Social Security Administration becomes an important task when a loved one passes away. Your local field office requires notification to avert any identity theft issues and to process only legitimate payments. Moreover, you need to know who qualifies for Social Security benefits for eligible survivors of the person who has died.

If you are unsure how to go about properly communicating the death to the appropriate parties, follow these steps to ensure that all parties are made aware of the death in your family. From there, you can work with the Social Security Administration to determine who will receive survivor and death benefits, if applicable.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.